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For us, the decision to have a Costa Rica wedding was an easy one. It was Max’s second home and the combination of beach and lush jungle made it a perfect setting for our rustic laid back affair. We loved sharing our love for travel and our love for Costa Rica with friends and family who traveled thousands of miles to see us tie the knot in December 2015 at our Costa Rica destination wedding.

Max & Oksana Costa Rica wedding
Our wedding ceremony on the beach in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Wedding Charm

We aren’t the only ones smitten by Costa Rica’s charm. These days, more and more couples are choosing to forego norms and traditions. They embrace the destination wedding trend by saying their “I Do’s” in one of the happiest places on earth (that’s Costa Rica in case you didn’t know). 

Our Costa Rica Destination Wedding

We took 12-months to plan our wedding in Costa Rica. Everything has been carefully researched and organized from the officiant to decor, catering, music and everything in between! We put on quite the affair and entertained over 40 family members and guests that traveled to Costa Rica from overseas. Additionally, there are also 30-40 locals that joined in the celebrations. Every one of our guests pitched in and helped us with the finishing touches. Although, everything didn’t go perfectly (I’m not sure that weddings ever do), it really was a beautiful day and one that we wouldn’t have traded it for anything!

Check Out Our Featured Video

There is no denying it. Costa Rica is an amazing location for a destination wedding! Costa Rica not only offers a spectacular beach/jungle setting, but it also makes for an amazing trip for you and your guests.

If you are considering a Costa Rica destination wedding for your upcoming nuptials, we hope that our advice and tips can help make the planning process and a lot less daunting! Here is everything you need to know about getting married in Costa Rica.

Your Marriage Will Be Legal In Your Home Country

Unlike a lot of other popular destination wedding locations, Costa Rica actually allows you to have a civil wedding ceremony that will be legal in your home country. In fact, the legalities of getting married in Costa Rica are pretty simple and straightforward. There are only a few requirements:

  • Weddings in Costa Rica must be officiated by a lawyer.
  • You must provide copies of your passports, birth certificates, information about previous marriages (if applicable), and the names of your parents.
  • You will need 2 witnesses who are not your family. Your witnesses will be required to provide their passports/IDs to your officiant prior to the ceremony.

No blood tests, no police checks, no additional documents or hassle which can help keep your Costa Rica wedding cost budget-friendly.

Max signing marriage documents at our Costa Rica wedding
Max signing marriage documents at our wedding ceremony on the beach in Costa Rica

After the ceremony, the lawyer will register your marriage with Costa Rica’s National Registry, which will issue an official marriage certificate. Expect this process to take around 4-6 weeks (ours took 5).

To be legally recognized in your home country, your Costa Rican marriage certificate must then be:

  • Translated into English by an official translator
  • Authenticated by the Costa Rican Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Authenticated by your Embassy in Costa Rica

Your lawyer should be able to organize all the paperwork for you. This should take another week or so. Expect your lawyer fees, marriage registration and all other fees. Making your wedding legal should cost you anywhere between USD $1,500-2,000.

The lawyer that officiated our wedding was a friend of the family. But, during our research, we came across Costa Rica Marriage Officiants. It’s a great website that can help you find your own Costa Rican officiant.

There Are Lots Of Beautiful Costa Rica Wedding Venues

Now that you have the confidence that weddings in Costa Rica are possible, let us inspire you with some beautiful settings that can serve as backdrops to Costa Rica weddings.

You can plan an extravagant luxury affair with chandeliers and white linens. Or, you can choose to blend in with nature and go with a rustic theme that incorporates the surroundings into your wedding theme.

The beach ceremony set up at our Costa Rica wedding
Our beach ceremony set up for our Costa Rica wedding

There are so many options to choose from when it comes to Costa Rica wedding venues. You can get married on the beach, in the rainforest or even in the mountains. Just keep in mind that location may depend on the season. Check out our guide to the best time to go to Costa Rica to help you find the best time of the year for your Costa Rica wedding!

Costa Rica All-Inclusive Wedding

The following is a selection of hotels/resorts that are popular among brides and grooms looking to tie the knot in Costa Rica. The majority of Costa Rica’s big hotels and resorts are located in Guanacaste, but there are some scattered around other parts of the country.

Ceremony set up at Dreams Las Mareas, Costa Rica wedding
Wedding ceremony set up at Dreams Las Mareas, Costa Rica

Without a doubt, getting married at one of these establishments may increase your Costa Rica wedding cost. But, their Costa Rica wedding package prices will include a wedding planner, officiant, decor, sometimes catering. Most importantly, you’ll have an absolutely fuss-free experience when you chose to go with a Costa Rica all inclusive wedding.

If you would like to get married at one of the above mentioned resorts, plan to spend at least $15-20K on the affair. Be prepared to pay North American prices for food, decor, cake and many other elements of the wedding. 

Costa Rica Boutique Hotel Wedding

If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, plenty of smaller more boutique hotels will be happy to play host to Costa Rica weddings. In many cases, they will be able to provide or arrange catering, accommodation and some decor. This will give you the opportunity to put a bit more of “you” into the setup and the day itself.

Manuel Antonio National Park, view from Costa Verde Hotel. Costa Rica wedding
Manuel Antonio National Park, view from Costa Verde Hotel

There are lots of boutique hotels that offer wedding services in Costa Rica. While we are sure that many do a fantastic job, there are a couple that we would recommend from first-hand experience.

Drift Away Eco Lodge, Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste

If you are new to our website, you might not have heard this yet. But, Drift Away Eco Lodge is actually our own eco-lodge in Costa Rica. We purchased the hotel back in December 2017 and have turned it into a beautiful eco-lodge. It can now host up to 32 people and is perfectly suited for a small intimate destination wedding.

Costa Rica holds a special place in our hearts and Drift Away Eco Lodge is located steps away from where we had our own Costa Rica wedding. So, we know a thing or two about hosting an amazing wedding celebration in the area.

Staff at our hotel work with the best wedding planners, photographers, videographers, caterers and other suppliers. It’s our job to ensure that you get the best value and best service on your special day. As long as you book the entire hotel for the duration of the celebration, there will be no additional venue fees! 

Costa Rica wedding destination Drift Away Eco Lodge, Playa Avellanas
Drift Away Eco Lodge, Playa Avellanas, perfect for weddings in Costa Rica

Costa Verde Hotel, Manuel Antonio

Having recently attended a beautiful wedding at Costa Verde Hotel, we have now seen first hand what a small hotel wedding can look like at Costa Verde Hotel near Manuel Antonio National Park. The verdict? It’s BEAUTIFUL!

The iconic hotel seems to perfectly blend in with the surroundings. It gives a feeling like you really are staying in the jungle. Parts of the hotel, like the helipad in front of the Costa Verde II and the reception hall overlooking the Pacific Ocean, have been built specifically to provide a unique environment for wedding receptions.

Costa Rica wedding: Views from Costa Verde Hotel
Views from Costa Verde Hotel

We loved their focus on recycling throughout the premises. Rainwater is used for laundry services and that solar energy is used to heat up the water. All furniture at Costa Verde is made in their own wood shop (which you can visit during your stay there). They use the naturally downed trees from the region and all throughout the grounds. Moreover, they  thousands of recycled bottles are used as lighting fixtures.

Costa Verde Hotel: Costa rica wedding
Costa Verde Hotel, a lovely place to get married in Costa Rica

It is definitely one of the most unique, and beautiful accommodations we have stayed at in our travels. In our opinion, Costa Verde an ideal destination for a destination wedding in Costa Rica!

Costa Rica Villa or Private Home Wedding

For the ultimate budget-friendly option, many couples choose to rent a large villa or a private house and use it as the setting for the ceremony/reception. While this does give you the most authentic experience and the opportunity to personalize your day instead of going with a cookie-cutter resort option, it also comes with a LOT of work and stress versus a venue that offers Costa Rica wedding package prices. You’ll have to hire all the vendors including a wedding planner to help you pull the day together.

If you want to look into this option, this is a great list of tried and tested private home/villa rentals as recommended by couples who had a Costa Rica destination wedding.

Casa Fantastica, Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas, Costa Rica wedding
Casa Fantastica, Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Photo via Destination Wedding Details

Airbnb is another great alternative since a lot of large Costa Rican homes often come with a fairly large property that would be more than suitable to serve as Costa Rica wedding venues.

Don’t have an Airbnb account yet? Sign up now and get up to $35 off your first stay.

We went with the cheapest venue alternative – a private home (sans the wedding planner), and trust us when we say, coordinating all the vendors, making all the arrangements and setting everything up for our wedding day was incredibly hard and stressful. It’s not an option that we would recommend to others!

Costa Rica Wedding Photographers Are Very Talented

Once you have decided on your Costa Rica wedding venues, choosing a wedding photographer should be next on your list. Luckily, having a Costa Rica destination wedding doesn’t mean you have to pay an arm and a leg to fly your chosen wedding photographer to Costa Rica.

The country boasts an amazing selection of photographers that specialize in the Costa Rica wedding sector. But keep in mind that Costa Rica’s wedding industry is still rather small, so while the options are great, they are somewhat limited, so booking as far in advance as possible is a must!

We narrowed down the list of Costa Rica Wedding Photographers to our top choices. Most photographers don’t mind traveling outside of their local area to cover weddings and events. They are ranked below in order of our preference:

  1. Madison Baltodano (our amazing photographer)
  2. Toh Goutennoire
  3. A Brit and a Blonde
  4. Jonathan Yonkers
  5. Jonathan Cooley

We were absolutely over the moon with the photos that Madison took on our big day. She captured the emotions, the setting, and the day with absolute perfection and her services were really well priced! Check them out here.

You can find more Costa Rican Photographers listed HERE. Prices for an 8-hour package will range from $1,200 to $4,700.

Costa Rica Wedding Videography

If you are looking to have your wedding captured on video, your options are somewhat limited. A few of the photographers listed above, also offer Costa Rica wedding videography services, but rates are high and their availability is limited.

If you are planning a destination wedding in Costa Rica and are looking for an affordable wedding videographer, drop us an email and we’ll try to help. Over the last few years, we have offered wedding videography services in Costa Rica to a few couples and have heard nothing but great feedback.

Check out a sample of our work below:  

Hiring a Wedding Planner is Probably a Good Idea

Unless you are planning a Costa Rica all inclusive wedding that offers wedding planning services, we definitely suggest that you hire a wedding planner or at least a day of coordinator to help you bring your dream wedding to life.

Take it from someone who chose to DIY and faced a million and one problems, trust us, you don’t want to do it all yourself!

Magic reception Costa Rica wedding
Our DIY Wedding was a LOT of work!

Here are some great wedding coordinators/planners that I considered, but unfortunately didn’t end up hiring. (In hindsight, hiring one of these planners would’ve probably made our day a LOT less stressful.) As with photographers, wedding planners service all of Costa Rica and aren’t limited to their local area.

Wedding Planning/Coordination services start at $1,000 and go up from there depending on the level of the planner’s involvement pre and during the event.

Reception/Ceremony Set Up Can Be Pricey

If your chosen Costa Rica wedding venues do not include tables, chairs, table settings, and other decors, getting everything arranged for your big day can be pricey. There are only 5 big furniture and event rental businesses in Costa Rica:

…and they make sure to charge destination wedding prices. If you are going to need to set up your own ceremony/reception, you are looking at $1,500-$2,000 in rental fees. And don’t forget, depending on the location of your wedding venue the delivery fees can be upwards of $500-1,000. (We were quoted $1,000 for delivery on New Year’s Eve – one of the main reasons why we ended up building/buying our own tables/chairs/etc)

The first 3 suppliers on the list are also the top choices for most wedding planners in Costa Rica, so their inventory goes fast and needs to be booked well in advance.

 

Other Vendors Are Few And Far Between

Catering, hair, makeup, flowers, cake are all things that you will likely need to add to your Costa Rica wedding cost if you are thinking of going with a DIY/private home/villa type of wedding.

These vendors were really hard to find and their prices were anything but competitive. We didn’t end up using any of these for our wedding and instead hired friends of the family to take care of our catering, cake and hair needs.

Caterers & Cakes

  • Soma Chefs, serves Santa Teresa Area, offers catering and private chef services
  • Ono Cuisine, serves all of Costa Rica, offers private chef services and catering
  • Costa Rica Catering, serves Guanacaste, offers cake services and catering
  • Victoria Zoch Cakes, serves Guanacaste, makes cakes and other dessert items
  • German Bakery, serves Guanacaste, makes special occasion cakes
Our locally made wedding cake. Costa Rica wedding
Our locally made wedding cake

You won’t find a cake for less than $200 and a caterer willing to put together a menu for less than $80-$100/person.

Hair & Make-Up

  • Luna Bella Makeup & Hair serves all of Costa Rica
  • Costa Rica Hair serves all of Costa Rica

Hair & Make-Up quotes started at $120/person.

Florists

Flower arrangements were quoted starting from $60 for each bridal bouquet.

Costa Rica Wedding bouquet
Finding a supplier that dealt with frangipanis was impossible, so I ended up making the bridal bouquets myself

You Can Celebrate Your Wedding Well Past Your Wedding Day

One of our favourite things about getting married in Costa Rica was the fact that for most of our friends and family this wasn’t just a 1-day event, it was a week-long vacation. One of the biggest complaints that we heard from other married couples was that they didn’t get a chance to hang out with their friends and family on their wedding day.

Watching sunset on the beach with our friends the day after our Costa Rica wedding
Watching the sunset on the beach with our friends the day after our wedding

This couldn’t have been farther away from the truth during our Costa Rican wedding. We loved hanging out with our friends and family after the wedding. We arranged group outings to the local fiestas, we held a Thank You brunch where we got a chance to once again thank our guests for sharing our special day with us, and we even traveled around Costa Rica and Nicaragua with some of our friends a few days after the wedding. It was a wedding celebration and an amazing vacation all in one!

Max & Oksana with friends at Playa del Coco. Costa Rica wedding
Fun and games on Playa del Coco with our awesome friends a few days after the wedding

With no shortage of activities to do in Costa Rica, you too can extend your wedding celebration far beyond your Wedding Day. Hang out on the beach, go horseback riding, zip-lining, go on a day cruise or check out a rainforest or a national park.

Experiencing the beauty of Costa Rica with your friends and family is guaranteed to make your wedding that much more memorable and special. You can’t get this stuff back home!

Your Honeymoon Can Start Where Your Wedding Day Ended

Do you know what is more magical than a wedding in Costa Rica? Honeymooning in Costa Rica! Dozens of beautiful honeymoon worthy destinations are going to be within a quick drive away from your wedding location. No additional flights, no need to repack, or plan another trip. Your honeymoon can begin as soon as you want!

Love heart. Beach Costa Rica wedding

Total Costa Rica Wedding Cost

Your Costa Rica wedding cost can range dramatically.

To get started, it’s important to determine your budget, approximately how many people will be attending your wedding, and your Costa Rican wedding style. As we mentioned, an all-inclusive venue will typically be more fuss-free than a DIY wedding like our own but the cost usually reflects that.

However, on average a Costa Rican wedding is much more affordable than one held in North America. In Costa Rica, a wedding typically hovers around $200-$400USD per person while in the States basic weddings average a total of $33,000 USD.

costa rica wedding

Our DIY Costa Rican wedding cost us only $11,000, but as mentioned before it came with a lot of hard work and a lot of stress. We think that a budget of $15,000-20,000 for a 40-50 person wedding is the sweet spot for someone looking for an enjoyable and down to earth wedding celebration in Costa Rica.

* Unless otherwise stated, all photos in this post were taken by our talented photographer, Madison Baltodano.

BEFORE YOU GO: Don’t forget travel insurance!

We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance, especially in a country like Costa Rica. Whether you just plan to hang out on the beach, do a little bit of hiking, or go extreme (think surfing, scuba diving, or zip-lining), being protected on your travels is an irreplaceable peace of mind. We learned about the importance of travel insurance the hard way and now we never travel without coverage.

Get a quote through our recommended insurance provider, World Nomads.

Would you choose to get married in Costa Rica? What would your dream wedding look like?

 

27 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About Planning a Costa Rica Wedding”

  1. Wow, this looks like a gorgeous wedding! This post gives some really useful and helpful information for those who are planning a for wedding in Costa Rica. These pictures are absolutely amazing; they do a great job of capturing all the fun, excitement, and beauty! Thanks so much for posting!

    1. We didn’t end up hiring one for our wedding, but I know that the folks at Cabo Lunar (furniture rental company) offer DJ services. You can also rent DJ equipment from them if needed.

  2. Hi and congrats! Costa Rica is a beautiful spot!
    Great list but missing a few things , namely us! Weddings Costa Rica – we are the longest running planning company located full-time in Costa Rica (and I’m a fellow Canuck 😉
    Most wedding lawyers will not ask for a birth certificate and complete fees for everything will run more like $800 (maybe because it was New Year’s?).
    Costa Mesa and Eventos Boadicea are both in San Jose, travel to all over the country and offer the most complete rental offerings (everything from linens to tents to dinnerware) are the preferred choice for planners and their transport rates are in the $500 range. The other companies listed are more boutique with tables/chairs and some lighting, servicing Guanacaste.
    Sunflower hair/makeup is no longer in Costa Rica, unfortunately.
    Maybe because you were looking at New year’s Eve (the most expensive day for a wedding here), the prices you were quoted were premium, as wedding cakes normally go for $8 a person and caterers usually start around $40 per dinner and up. Cafe Lago Catering (www.cafelagocatering) is a great option, featuring Costa Rican cuisine with a twist.
    Fragipanis are not a flower that are grown commercially here, which is likely why none of the florists could help you with them. Stylos y Flores is an excellent florist as well.
    Hope this helps fill out your list! Felicidades and safe travels!

  3. This was such a great post! I’m getting married in Costa Rica in December of 2017 and will definitely be referencing this guide throughout the wedding planning process. Thanks again!!

  4. Wow, your wedding photographer is truly talented. Your pictures turned out absolutely amazing! I love how you explained everything piece by piece and included links to your own and other wonderful professionals that took care of your stunning little wedding adventure! Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Thank you. Yes, Madi was amazing. If you are planning a wedding in Costa Rica, we highly recommend reaching out to her for a quote! Hope our post helps others with their planning 🙂

  5. This is awesome! Im originally from Costa Rica but am up in Portland, OR for school. My love was born and raised here but most of my family is back home. We want to do the wedding back in Costa Rica but want to be sure that his older family members are comfortable so traveling back to my native Limon would prove difficult. But by contrast, holding our wedding at a resort would make it next to impossible for the women in my family to cook the meal (as per tradition) and for us to maintain a reasonable budget.
    With a guest list of about 70, cheap housing and wedding assistance with minimal intervention from the hotel seems like a lot to ask.
    Where did you have your wedding and house your guests? (im sure ive overlooked it the few times i went back to look)
    Did you use a wedding planning book? are there any tools you suggest? Because even though you’ve suggested a planner, my partner and i really want to DIY (with the assistance of my aunt who is a lawyer in CR, and my mother.. she’s a certified mom)

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Kimaury,
      Sounds like you are headed for a similar wedding that we had. We also didn’t want a resort affair (felt very cookie-cutter) and ended up having the reception at Max’s mom’s house. She has a big piece of property so we were able to easily accommodate all of our guests (about 60-70) in the backyard. We didn’t provide housing for our guests, but did give them lots of suggestions for various accommodation options in the area.
      And no, I didn’t use a wedding planning book (what is that?), just a few spreadsheets and a Pinterest Board (you can find it here: https://www.pinterest.com/oksanasim/rustic-beach-wedding-ideas/)
      Hope that helps! Best of luck with the planning!

  6. Thankful for your info. Planning a Nov 2017 wedding in CR. your dress is beautiful and perfectly fit the occasion. Do you mind telling where you got it from?

  7. Love this post! Any input on tipping? We are eloping there in a week and aren’t sure if we need to tip the officiant and photographer!? Thanks!

  8. Janet mantecon

    Thank you so much for detailing your event! It’s great to see that it can be done on your own! I’m trying to stay on a budget and finding that it’s not as easy as I thought it was going to be! We want to get married in Manuel Antonio any suggestions?

  9. Hi great post we are looking at a Costa Rica wedding and I was considering both renting a villa and also all inclusive. It sounds like the villa maybe was a cheaper per night type thing but the actual wedding may have been expensive, and stressful. What’s your take what was your overall cost for the wedding ? I am very simple and one resort I am considering offers free wedding service with the stay of 7 nights.

    1. It may seem like having a wedding at a rented villa would be the cheaper option, but honestly, by the time you add up the cost of rentals, catering, florist, photographer, etc, it will add up being just as much as having it at a hotel or resort that actually offers wedding services. If you end up going with a rented villa, make sure you hire a wedding planner or day coordinator to avoid all the stress on the day. The beauty of having your wedding at a hotel is that they take care of all the details and that’s a peace of mind that’s worth a LOT! If we were to do it all over again, I would go with a resort or hotel. If you want something more unique and not a stock standard all-inclusive wedding package, look into some of the hotels we recommended in the post. Many of them are small and intimate and offer a great alternative to an all-inclusive resort. Costa Verde is our favourite!

  10. Not sure if you’re still checking this but I would love some advice on a few things! I am getting married in 2 months in Guanacaste ❤️
    I am getting married at a resort you mentioned above that is all inclusive and i have NO idea what and who i should expect to tip. Since mostly everything is included in the package i am lost. And the resort isn’t really in the position to tell me what to tip. My concerns are the coordinator, the DJ, the photographer and videographer, the waitstaff (tip is inlcuded in contract for food so i assume no tip is necessary there?), bartenders, musicians for precession, officiant, hair and makeup artist, bus drivers to and from the airport.
    My other question is do you know if i have to apply for a marriage certificate prior to leaving for Costa Rica? I live in NY and my understanding is you apply for a license if you’re getting married within the state of NY so this should not be necessary for our situation. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Nicole, regarding tipping. It is not customary to tip in Costa Rica, but when you experience great service, of course, it is appreciated. Our advice would be that you do not have to tip anyone who is directly getting paid by you for their services, so that’s photographer, videographer, coordinator, DJ, musicians, officiant, etc but in cases when you are hiring a catering company and they are providing you with waitstaff, it would be appropriate to tip the waitstaff, since they are probably earning a fairly low hourly wage. Same applies to the bus driver. If you hired a transportation company and their bus driver is not the owner of the company, he/she probably works for close to minimum wage and would appreciate a tip.
      With regards to the marriage certificate, you can get that in Costa Rica, if you are having a legal marriage ceremony (officiated by a lawyer), it does take a LONG time to get the paperwork back (1-2 months) and then you have to get it officially translated and notarized here in CR before it would be considered legal in the US. It’s a bit of a hassle, so most couples that get married here choose to have a civil ceremony in their home country first so that the CR wedding is mostly just a celebration. We actually got legally married here (no civil ceremony), but the lawyer costs added a big chunk to our budget and we had to wait for 2 months before we could pick up our certificate.

      1. Thank you so very much!!! It was almost impossible to find a direct answer on tipping for weddings anywhere online! I just don’t want to short anyone who is counting on a $100 tip from us. It’s hard to get away from the American view on tipping. I had asked a friend that i had made in Costa Rica last time i was there and she told me $3/day haha so i didn’t even have much help there other than tipping isn’t really expected or necessary (in large dollar amounts).
        We too will be getting married one Costa Rica and waiting out the paperwork. Glad to know there is nothing to be done before hand for that. There is something special about getting married on your actual wedding day!
        Thanks again and Pura Vida!

  11. Andi & Stephen

    Thank you so much for posting this article. We were having a heck of a time figuring out where to get married and thanks to the information in this article, my fiance and I have decided to get married at Costa Verde Hotel. Thanks again for all the information and the great tips.

  12. Fantastic blog. Very informative and shares everything someone needs to know that is planning a Costa Rica destination wedding. Thank you and highly recommend a destination wedding in paradise!

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